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Archaeology

Archaeology

Study of human activity in the past

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Lina Zeldovich
May 25, 2021
Smithsonian Magazine
A new study of fish remains deepens scholars' understanding of how the dietary laws came to be
Science X staff
May 5, 2021
phys.org
An Austrian-American research team (University of Vienna, Department Evolutionary Anthropology and Harvard Medical School, Department of Genetics), in collaboration of Hungarian experts from Eötvös Loránd University, has developed a new method that allows the almost non-destructive extraction of genetic material from archeological human remains. The method allows anthropologists, archeologists and archaeogeneticists to avoid the risk of serious damage to artifacts of significant scientific and heritage value, which can then be fully examined in future research.
Beaudet, A.
April 9, 2021
Science
Tracking the emergence of humanlike cerebral features in the hominin fossil record could provide evidence of the timing and process of brain changes and offer a glimpse into the behavior of our ancestors and relatives. Because brain tissues rarely fossilize, changes in brain size, shape, and organization are gleaned from brain endocasts (replicas of the inner surface of the braincase) ([ 1 ][1]). After his observations of brain imprints preserved in fossil cranial specimens from Olduvai (Tanzania) ([ 2 ][2]), paleoanthropologist Phillip V. Tobias stated that "hominid evolution attained a new level of organization...with the emergence of the genus Homo ." There have since been debates on whether humanlike brain organization emerged concomitantly with the appearance of the genus Homo . On page 165 of this issue, Ponce de León et al. ([ 3 ][3]) challenge this view by suggesting that Homo in Dmanisi (foothills of the Georgian Caucasus) 1.85 to 1.77 million years (Ma) ago showed a primitive organization of the brain. Reconstructing the chronology and mode of hominin brain evolution requires a good knowledge of subtle changes in brain areas. In this respect, the inferior part of the frontal lobe, where Broca's cap is located, has been the focus of thorough investigations and intense discussions ([ 4 ][4]). In addition to its use as a critical landmark for brain reorganization, Broca's cap plays a fundamental role in language production and comprehension, the evolution of which is an equally intriguing topic. The Broca's cap of extant humans differs structurally from that of our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees and bonobos. Chimpanzees and bonobos have one distinct furrow in that region called the frontoorbital sulcus. This is absent in humans, who instead have two vertical furrows. In human evolutionary studies, it is assumed that the chimpanzee and bonobo brains more closely approximate the primitive condition for the hominin brain. Within this context, the "single-furrow condition" is interpreted as representing the ancestral condition. Despite crucial recent discoveries of germane specimens and ground-breaking computer-assisted revision of the fossil record ([ 5 ][5], [ 6 ][6]), little is known about the brain of early Homo . This unfortunate situation can be partially explained by the scarcity of complete or at least partial fossil crania from that time period. For example, the putative earliest human remains from Ledi-Geraru (Ethiopia), dated to 2.8 Ma, do not preserve the braincase ([ 7 ][7]). The early Homo specimens for which there are an exploitable amount of endocast data (description of the organization of the cerebral areas) are from African and Asian localities that are geologically relatively young (less than 1.8 Ma) ([ 8 ][8], [ 9 ][9]), leaving a gap of about 1 Ma in our knowledge of human brain evolution. In terms of frontal organization, this 1 Ma break in the usable fossil record is crucial. Early hominins that wandered in Africa before 2.8 Ma show a relatively primitive organization of this region ([ 4 ][4]), whereas imprints on later human endocasts indicate a derived human condition ([ 5 ][5]). In this case, the hypothesis of a derived organization emerging at the same time as the earliest humans could not be discounted. ![Figure][10] An evolutionary scenario for the hominin frontal lobes The evolutionary scenario is based on the evidence of brain changes preserved in the fossil record and investigated by Ponce de León et al. Dark gray curves indicate the position of the frontal sulci. GRAPHIC: N. DESAI/ SCIENCE Through their comprehensive study of the notable assemblage from Dmanisi and their revision of the African and Asian fossil material, Ponce de León et al. cast new understanding on the cerebral organization of early Homo in general, and Homo erectus ( sensu lato ) in particular, challenging the idea of the emergence of a fully derived human brain at the time of the earliest representatives of the genus Homo . The hominin fossil-bearing site of Dmanisi is exceptional for its geographical (Europe) and chronological (1.85 to 1.77 Ma) contexts ([ 10 ][11]). As such, fossiliferous deposits of this locality document one of the earliest dispersals of Homo out of Africa. By combining various methods of high-resolution imaging (including synchrotron radiation) and three-dimensional modeling techniques (including geometric morphometrics), the authors demonstrate that the endocast of H. erectus at about 1.8 Ma reflects a primitive organization of the frontal lobes, whereas later H. erectus specimens in Southeast Asia and Africa show a derived condition (see the figure). Accordingly, the authors suggest that the humanlike frontal lobe organization emerged after the genus Homo and the earliest dispersals out of Africa. The question that will need to be addressed next deals with the nature of the underlying evolutionary processes. What kind of selection pressure may have been responsible for the reorganization of the frontal lobes? This question has tremendous functional and behavioral implications because, apart from language, it has been demonstrated that the Broca's cap was also certainly involved in toolmaking ([ 11 ][12]). The other possibility, which probably deserves more attention, is that there was no selection at all, and changes that affected the Broca's cap were a by-product of the reorganization of other areas of the brain, and that, ultimately, the emergence of language was the result of an exaptation (previously existing anatomical features co-opted for a new use) ([ 12 ][13]). In that respect, the description of the brain imprints of the endocasts of earlier Homo specimens, such as the braincase recently found at Drimolen (South Africa) ([ 13 ][14]), and future discoveries of new specimens from that time period will be essential to understanding the evolutionary context of these brain changes. 1. [↵][15]1. C. P. E. Zollikofer, 2. M. S. Ponce de Leó n , Evol. Anthropol. 165, 20 (2013). [OpenUrl][16] 2. [↵][17]1. P. V. Tobias , J. Hum. Evol. 16, 741 (1987). [OpenUrl][18][CrossRef][19][Web of Science][20] 3. [↵][21]1. M. S. Ponce de León et al ., Science 372, 165 (2021). [OpenUrl][22][Abstract/FREE Full Text][23] 4. [↵][24]1. D. Falk , Front. Hum. Neurosci. 8, 134 (2014). [OpenUrl][25][CrossRef][26][PubMed][27] 5. [↵][28]1. R. L. Holloway et al ., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 115, 5738 (2018). [OpenUrl][29][Abstract/FREE Full Text][30] 6. [↵][31]1. P. Gunz et al ., Sci. Adv. 6, eaaz4729 (2020). [OpenUrl][32][FREE Full Text][33] 7. [↵][34]1. B. Villmoare et al ., Science 347, 1352 (2015). [OpenUrl][35][Abstract/FREE Full Text][36] 8. [↵][37]1. D. Falk , Science 221, 1072 (1983). [OpenUrl][38][Abstract/FREE Full Text][39] 9. [↵][40]1. G. T. Schwartz, 2. I. Tattersall 1. R. L. Holloway, 2. D. Broadfield, 3. M. Yuan , Brain Endocasts--The Paleoneurological Evidence, vol. 3 of The Human Fossil Record, G. T. Schwartz, I. Tattersall, Eds. (Wiley, 2004). 10. [↵][41]1. L. Gabunia et al ., Science 288, 1019 (2000). [OpenUrl][42][Abstract/FREE Full Text][43] 11. [↵][44]1. D. Stout, 2. T. Chaminade , Philos. Trans. R. Soc. London Ser. B 367, 75 (2012). [OpenUrl][45][CrossRef][46][GeoRef][47][PubMed][48] 12. [↵][49]1. I. Tattersall , Sci. Am. 285, 56 (2001). [OpenUrl][50][CrossRef][51][PubMed][52][Web of Science][53] 13. [↵][54]1. A. I. R. Herries et al ., Science 368, eaaw7293 (2020). 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Ryan White
March 11, 2021
Calgary
An international effort to study the similarities behind human evolution and that of an especial primate was bolstered by intestinal skin cells collected from stool samples of capuchin monkeys through a revolutionary method.
Jennifer Ouellette
January 2, 2021
Ars Technica
Combining traditional "pick and trowel" field work with a sweeping birds-eye view
Paul Rincon
August 12, 2020
BBC News
Archaeologists say they've discovered the earliest known bone tools in Europe.
Ashley Strickland, CNN
February 18, 2020
CNN
Around 70,000 years ago, a Neanderthal was laid to rest in Shanidar Cave. Excavations in recent years have slowly revealed its entire upper body, including a lower back, the clenched bones of a right hand and the left hand almost acting as a pillow beneath the skull.
Joel Day
December 24, 2019
Express.co.uk
SCIENTISTS have discovered a 300-million-year-old lizard in Canada that proves the first instance of animal parental care in a bombshell scientific revelation.
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